1. of Love
2. of Power to Change Lives 1
B. The Gospel Example 1:5-6
1. of the Evangelists (v 5)
2. of the Converts (v 6) 2
C. The Gospel’s Spread 1:7-8
1. Through Their Own Region (vv 7-8a)
2. to the Regions Beyond (v 8)
D. The Gospel Transformation 1:9-10
1. The 180° Turnaround (v 9)
2. The Changed Expectation (v 10) 3
E. Then What?
1. Charles G. Finney 4
2. Conversion Is Radical
1 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Gospel’s Power
1. From “Our Daily Bread” 2, the writer recounts his personal experience:
a. The couple's example of love and compassion was an encouragement to me. They were in their early forties and had three children of their own when the Lord led them to take in four foster children, all siblings less than 4 years old. A month later, the woman found out she was expecting!
b. Over the next few years, with their house bulging and their budget straining, they discovered that their situation was an encouragement to the other families in their church who could look at them and say, “And we think we have problems!” They were a vivid example of joyfully following Christ's leading, even when it's difficult.
c. What was remembered most about the couple with all those young children is their joy. They sometimes shook their heads in wonder at God's leading, but they always had a smile that said, “We would do it all again.”
d. Others’ examples are an important part of learning
(A) they form a visible and concrete illustration of truth
(B) the Thessalonians have already been commended by Paul and the other two evangelists for the examples they had set found in v 3:
(1) the working of their faith
(2) the labouring of their love
(3) the persevering of their hope
(C) now, in this last half of the first chapter of this letter, they, along with the evangelists, become an example of another aspect of the power of the gospel
(D) how you live is important; it should be an example to others!
a. it is about 30 years since Ray Stedman, wrote as follows: 3 and the words sound very up-to-date.
b. today there is sense of an approaching world crisis ... unstable stock market ... cynicism and distrust of the political process … increased drug & alcohol abuse … scientists tinkering with our genetic make-up … threat of AIDS … spread of famine in many countries … threat of nuclear warfare… We are living in a world in crisis.
c. In 1980, world leaders attended the First Global Conference on the Future in Toronto: … sobering words of the conference chairman: “The bad news is that the end of the world is coming. The good news is, not yet. But the decade of the '80's is going to be the most important in human history. If we don't make the right decisions, the odds of us going beyond this decade are very slim. The danger of war and the collapse of Western civilization is a very real possibility.”
d. in 1972, an international group, the Club of Rome, suggested six proposals that humanity must put into effect for survival: here is the first:
(A) “The survival of this planet necessitates new forms of thinking that will lead to a fundamental revision of human behaviour, and, by implication, of the entire fabric of present-day society.”
(B) expressed simply this says that if we cannot discover how to change people, there is no hope for saving the world from ultimate collapse.
e. this, then, is the wonder of salvation: the power of the gospel to change lives. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, …” (Romans 1:16)
a. for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
b. It is God who called these three men to enter Europe with the gospel of Jesus Christ … and God does not choose charlatans
(A) Paul and his companions had been prepared & led by the Spirit
(B) the proof of this was found in the power of the gospel message
(C) that message, attended by the Holy Spirit, made it clear that they were not merely bandying words or promoting their own selves
c. the Holy Spirit, His conviction of their hearers, their attitudes & actions, their behaviour – all these proved the kind of men they were
(A) they were approved workers for Christ
(B) they presented the gospel for the sake of the Thessalonians
(C) this is the good example they gave to them and to us
a. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
b. you have seen a small girl, perhaps, in her mother’s shoes, walking behind her mother, trying to mimic every action and move that her mother makes – or a small boy, his father
(A) so these new believers began to mimic – the Greek word is mimitai – the behaviour, attitudes & words of the only Christians that they had thus far seen: these three evangelists
(B) and it is implied, this was conditioned to be only such as those three were seeking to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ Himself
c. the imitation of Jesus, to which we are enjoined, is a spiritual imitation, involving such matters as
(A) holiness – becoming separated from all the things of the world that defile a person, as according to “ but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behaviour; because it is written, "you shall be holy, for I am holy."” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NAS)
(B) love – in accordance with Jesus’ words, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34 NAS)
(C) suffering – is inherent in the Gospel: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25 NAS) – this is an aspect of the gospel that many are unwilling to hear and to accept
d. the fact is, though, that tribulation an obvious outcome of conversion
(A) with the change in loyalty from the devil’s domain to Christ’s kingdom, a person automatically and immediately places himself or herself in opposition to the ruler of this world
(B) Jesus’ warning & assurance: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
(C) and the Thessalonians are examples to us in the way that they accepted tribulation: ‘with the joy of the Holy Spirit.’
a. so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, …
b. Thessalonica, along with Philippi, Berea, etc., was in the province of Macedonia – so their example was seen by believers in, as it were, their home territory, the other nearby churches
c. but also in Achaia – that neighbouring area to south – the location of the major cities of Athens and Corinth – was their example known
a. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.
b. in particular their example was twofold
(A) they were mission-minded, despatching the gospel,
(1) not simply within their own and neighbouring provinces
(2) but “every place”, so that they became examples also
(B) in their faith
(1) the word faith can convey a number of meanings: ritual, habit, a stated creed – these may mark only a superficial faith
(2) or, on the other hand, the entrusting of oneself toward God
(3) it was this second, self-evident faith that was widely known
(4) and the evangelists need say nothing further – oh, for such a faith as this whatever should happen to us!
a. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,
b. the Biblical word, ‘convert,’ means a complete turnabout of life
(A) from being headed into one direction, to the entirely opposite one
(B) from the road to hell to the road to heaven
(C) from, as we said, the devil’s domain to Christ’s kingdom
(D) from blackness to light; from death to life
c. these words indicate that the majority of that church were not Jews nor proselytes, but people who had turned from paganism
(A) no longer did they serve this world’s idols
(1) the idols of wood & stone are not so much seen these days
(2) although people still wear good luck charms, and so on
(3) but idols of riches, popularity, pleasure – in fact everything that comes between a person and God
(B) the true and living God
(1) this is the God which is revealed by God in His written word
(2) this is the God which is revealed in Jesus, the Incarnate word
(3) He is the living God,
(a) both as He is eternally so
(b) and that He alone is the source of physical & spiritual life
d. they indeed had been converted and it showed; does ours?
a. and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.
b. the transformation that takes place with the gospel results in a change in our perspective, our way of viewing things, our values
(A) without Christ our minds and desires are bound in time
(B) with Christ, they are freed to consider the eternity that God has place in our hearts, the spiritual realm above the physical
c. Jesus’ death and resurrection has brought this change about
(A) sin has been defeated as ultimately will be its consequences
(B) so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:28)
(C) that is our ultimate salvation: deliverance not only from the guilt of sin and the penalty of sin, but from the very presence of sin
(D) that is the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ
a. as a young lawyer, was sitting in a village law office in the state of New York. Finney had just come into the old squire’s office. It was very early in the day, and he was all alone when the Lord began to deal with him. “Finney, what are you going to do when you finish your course?” “Put out a shingle and practice law.” “Then what?” “Get rich,” “Then what?” “Retire.” “Then what?” “Die.” “Then what?” And the words came tremblingly, “The judgment.” He ran for the woods a half mile away. All day he prayed, and vowed that he would never leave until he had made his peace with God. He saw himself at the judgment bar of God. … Finney came out of the woods that evening, after a long struggle, with the high purpose of living henceforth to the glory of God and of enjoying Him forever. From that moment … God used him in a mighty way … 4
b. Finney’s conversion was singular and extreme
c. sometimes his doctrine questionable to say the least
d. but for a period of 50 years he forcibly brought to men’s minds the truth, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27)
a. we may not have been driven out into the woods to fall on our knees
b. conversion may have come to us as the obvious response to the gentle invitation of Jesus to come to Himself
(A) an invitation so simple, a child can obey
(B) yet so profound that it transcends our understanding
c. for when we confess Christ Jesus as Lord, we are turning our backs on all of this world’s vain glory to place our fate fully in God’s hands
d. what follows is the life-long, heart-changing work of the Holy Spirit
e. pray then that the Spirit has free course in your life to do this work.
© 2017 by Garth Hutchinson, Faith Fellowship Baptist Church of Aurora (Ontario): may be distributed or quoted freely, only let this be done to the glory “of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus ii.13). Except as noted otherwise, quotations are from the New American Standard version, used by permission. Various other English versions of the Holy Bible may be used in this sermon. Explanatory additions to the Bible text are shown in [braces]. Version identifiers are:
AV Authorized (King James) Version of 1769
NAS New American Standard version © 1960, 1995 The Lockman Foundation (usually the 1995 edition)
IGNT Interlinear Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing, 1956; as well as other Greek Texts as W&H, Nestle, etc.
NIV New International Version © 1984 by the International Bible Society
NKJV New King James Version © 1979 Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers
Philips The New Testament in Modern Englis, J. B. Phillips, Geoffrey Bles Ltd
RSV Revised Standard Version © 1946, 1952 National Council of Churches of Christ; Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd
WEY The New Testament in Modern Speech © 1902, 1912 R. F. Weymouth
Some of the commentaries and resources used in the preparation of this message are identified as follow:
BM – Biblical Museum, Editor James Comper Gray, ca 1870
CP - Decission, July & August 1962, Open Your Bible, by Dr Sherwiood E. Wirt
EBC – The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, © 1986 Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 49530, MI:
1, 2 Thessalonians: Robert L. Thomas
EGT – The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Hodder & Stoughton; 1903
1 & II Thessalonians, by James Moffatt
JFB - Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown; S. S. Scranton & Co. 1872
Gill – Exposition of the Old Testament, Exposition of the New Testament, by John Gill, D.D.
Kerux – The sermon & illustration data base compiled by Rev. David Holwick at the web-site, www.holwick.com.
NCBC – The New Century Bible Commentary – 1 and 2 Thessalonians – I. Howard Marshall – Wm B. Erdmans
RWP – Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, by Dr. A. T. Robertson
TTB – Thinking Through the Bible, Rev’d John McNicol, D.D., © 1944 by the author; The Upper Canada Tract & Book Society.
From ‘Our Daily Bread’, 1998-08-06 – Kerux illustrations #36487
Adapted from ‘Changed Lifes’, by Rev’d Ray C. Stedman, Kerux Sermon 5458
‘Then What?’ –The Church Herald – Kerux illustrations #11495